Mary Jo Weaver

Mary Jo Weaver

Professor Emerita, Religious Studies


  • Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 1973

Research interests

  • American Catholicism
  • Contemporary Christianity
  • Women and Religion
  • Mysticism and Spirituality

Mary Jo Weaver

I studied contemporary American Catholicism from perspectives that were shaped by different research trajectories over the last twenty-odd years. My first publications, on the turn-of-the-century modernist controversy immersed me in the history and politics of institutional Catholicism. My next books and articles—including New Catholic Women (rev. ed., 1995) and Springs of Water in a Dry Land(1992)—explored historical issues and spiritual questions raised by feminists in the American Catholic church. In the 1990's I was involved in a research project on the right and left "wings" of American Catholicism. Two books, Being Right: Conservative American Catholics (1995) and What's Left?: Liberal American Catholics (1999) offered a map to those territories.

My introductory (100-level) courses included both "Introduction to Christianity" in which I used my textbook of the same name (3rd edition, 1998), and "Star Trek and Religion" (a combination of popular culture, theories of religion, cosmology, and spirituality). Both of those courses employ graduate assistants. I loved working at the undergraduate level and taught two different kinds of courses there, larger ones which surveyed the territory, and smaller ones which focused on texts and the skills necessary to produce a first-rate paper. At that larger/survey level I taught "American Catholic History" (from the Spanish conquests to the present) and "Women and Religion in America" (the challenges, history, and practices of feminists within American Judaism and Christianity). I also taught three smaller, more intense courses. In "Mysticism and Western Spirituality" we read Julian of Norwich, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and others, and each student becomes as expert as possible on a mystic of his or her choice for a term paper and presentation. In "Spiritual Autobiography," we read Augustine, Abelard, Teresa of Avila, Dorothy Day, and others as we tried to understand the concept of a spiritual autobiography.

My last book, Cloister and Community: Life within a Carmelite Monastery (2002) blends the architectural and spiritual history of the Carmelite sisters of Indianapolis with the life and vision of Saint Teresa of Avila, and illustrates it all with 65 archival photographs.


Introduction to Christianity. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1983. — Second revised edition. 1990. — Third revised edition, with David Brakke and Jason Bivins, 1997.

Springs of Water in a Dry Land: Catholic Women& Spiritual Survival Today Boston, Beacon Press, 1993. (1993 Midwest Book Achievement Award for "Best Religious Book")

New Catholic Women: A Contemporary Challenge to Traditional Religious Authority. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. — Tenth Anniversary edition with new Introduction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Introduction to Christianity. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1983. — Second revised edition. 1990. — Third revised edition, with David Brakke and Jason Bivins, 1997.

Letters from a Modernist: George Tyrrell's Letters to Wilfrid Ward. London: Sheed and Ward, 1981.

Recent articles & other publications

"Conjectures of a Disenchanted Reader: Thomas Merton 25 Years Later" Horizons 30 (Fall 2003), 285-296.

"Sheed and Ward: Publisher" the U.S. Catholic Historian 21 (Summer 2003), 1-18.

"Rooted Hearts/Playful Minds: Catholic Intellectual Life at its Best" Cross Currents (Spring 1998) 61-74.

"Preface" and "Introduction" What's Left? (supra) pp. ix-xvi, 1-16.

"Resisting Catholic Sexual Teaching: Pro-Choice Activism and Homosexual Advocacy" for What's Left? (supra) pp. 88-111.

Recent courses

  • Star Trek and Religion
  • Introduction to Christianity
  • Spiritual Autobiography
  • American Catholic History
  • Women and Religion in America
  • The Darkness of God
  • Mystical Prayer in Western Spirituality

Awards & Honors

  • Indiana University, Course Development Grant for "Feminist Critique of Western Religions" ($4,000), 1986
  • Indiana Committee for the Humanities Grant for "Gender and Religious Authority" ($4,000), 1987
  • Indiana University Curriculum Development Grant for workshops on a new graduate curriculum for RS ($4,000), 1988
  • Indiana University President's Award for Distinguished Teaching, 1989
  • Lilly Endowment Grant for Roman Catholic Fundamentalism Project ($98,000), 1990
  • Lilly Endowment Grant for "Mapping American Catholicism: The Conservatives." Grant title: Being Right ($487,000), 1992-5
  • Lilly Endowment Grant "Mapping American Catholicism: The Liberals." Grant Title: "What's Left" ($366,000), 1995-8